Digital Maturity in Alumina Refining

Author(s): M.Barnes, D.Koffler, C.Bowels
Travaux 47, Proceedings of the 36th International ICSOBA Conference, Belem, Brazil, 29 October - 1 November, 2018


The rapid advancement of digital technologies and methods promises to have significant impact on the alumina and processing industry. Modern tools in machine learning, internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and real-time mathematical optimization are becoming more accessible and commonplace. These tools are being used to transform the refinery design process, improve productivity of operations, reduce maintenance cost, and offer the opportunity to redefine business processes and business models. Having knowledge of these rapidly developing digital technologies combined with deep domain expertise is key to unlocking value and delivering on the business case. This paper introduces the concept of digital maturity and provides a structured approach for considering digital transformation of complex processing plants. Moving through stages of digital maturity, process data is first used to provide visibility of the operation and generate process insights. Insights provide a ground truth to allow the development of predictive models. Predictive models then allow scenario evaluation and optimization to assist in making the right decisions from a facility to refinery-wide level. This may be by way of determining process targets, optimizing maintenance activities, or other means. An example of this approach to digital maturity is presented for the digestion facility of an alumina refinery. Here, modern software systems provide an interactive and intuitive means to assess current plant performance and provide real-time process insights and diagnostics of operational issues. Predictive asset reliability information is also generated to assist in maintenance planning by highlighting at-risk equipment and providing estimates of residual equipment life.

Award winning paper

Hatch is proud to have been recognized with Best Paper Award in the Alumina categories at the 36th International Committee for Study of Bauxite, Alumina, & Aluminum 2018 Conference (ICSOBA). The awards were presented at the conference, which took place from October 29 to November 1, 2018.

The ICSOBA conference reviews the status of bauxite, alumina, and aluminum industries worldwide, and discusses developments in production and cost improvements, as well as advances in environmentally friendly processes and safety.